Economics/Class Relations

The Real Wealth Gap

By Robert Stark

The intergenerational wealth gap, the housing crisis, and how “BLM vs. MAGA” poisons the discussion on every issue that matters.

Recent events have made it harder but more necessary than ever to eschew the reactive tribalism encapsulated currently by “BLM vs. MAGA” in favor of an honest dialogue about the material conditions under which middle-to-lower class Americans in both camps increasingly suffer. Case in point is the BLM camp’s focus on “white supremacy” as a supposedly foundational force of inequality within society. Few would argue that racial prejudice isn’t a driver of inequality in many areas of American life, but in the bigger picture, is it the most pertinent one? Is it the most productive thing to focus on in 2020? Certainly, it is not the most unifying.

A glance at the data on the racial wealth gap reveals that while such a gap exists for all age groups it rises dramatically with age. The racial wealth gap for the 18-34 range of American adults is approximately six times less wide than it is for Americans 75 and up, according to the 2016 Survey of Consumer Finances. No one in the millennial age range has much wealth, in other words, while white boomers remain the wealthiest people in America by leaps and bounds. How the racial wealth gap will look over the next 30, 40, or 50 years is difficult to predict but that it won’t reach anything near the chasmic level between white boomers and black boomers seems a good guess given how staggeringly harder it is for millennials of any race to build wealth than it was for boomers.


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